Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: What We Choose: An Adult Program on Ethics for Unitarian Universalists

Taking It Home: The Collective Good

Part of What We Choose

All action is for the sake of some end; and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient. — John Stuart Mill, 19th-century British philosopher and civil servant

Between workshops, pay attention to policy decisions, agreements, or actions debated in your community, state, nation, or in the larger world. Consider these questions:

  • What are the moral and ethical statements put forward to support particular policies, agreements, or actions?
  • How often do such statements weigh the comfort of the majority as the greater good? What argument could be made for another measure of the greater good, for instance, the greatest good for the greatest number?
  • In what ways does the process of adopting or changing laws, policies, or agreements reflect utilitarian thinking?

Notice times when you make a decision based on the premise that your decision will create an outcome that offers the greatest good for the greatest number of people. In those moments, ask yourself who is defining "good," and for whom. Who gets to say what is "good?" Who counts?